The Malta Independent 19 September 2019, Thursday

8,487 signatures on petition to save Manoel Island, Gzira group says

Saturday, 17 August 2019, 12:35 Last update: about 2 months ago

A petition signed by 916 citizens was presented to the Speaker of the House of Parliament by MP Anglu Farrugia. The petition is added to the over 7,500 signatures made in an online petition.

The hand signed petitions resulted from a drive by the grassroots group Inħobbu l-Gżira which in December launched a campaign to resist the development of Manoel Island and entreat Parliament to turn Manoel Island into an acutely needed park in the middle of Malta’s most densely developed and populated area. If the development by MIDI plc goes ahead, it will have a huge negative impact on the town of Gżira and neighbouring areas both during and after construction.                   

An appeal to the Prime Minister was made in February followed by an online petition lodged with the Parliamentary Petition Committee which attracted 7,571 signatures, a record for the Parliamentary Petition Committee. The petition closed on 16 April but still has not been brought up or discussed in Parliament, thr goup said. 

The Planning Authority approved the Manoel Island Masterplan outline in March, however Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar filed an appeal with the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. Funds for this appeal were raised through a social media crowdfunding campaign. The approval of a Masterplan does not mean that the project is a fait accompli.

Despite the Masterplan still being under appeal, on the 18th July the Planning Commission approved the excavation works. It is unclear why the Planning Commission approved the excavation of Manoel Island when the Masterplan is still being appealed.

These excavation works are contentious due to the many cemeteries and artefacts and buildings of high heritage value found on and in the waters around Manoel Island. 

To date, the Roman remains found on the seabed around Manoel Island have not been fully investigated. However, experts believe that the vats on the South Western side of the island (which are visible from the surface) may form part of a larger complex of Roman remains, possibly even a port.

Moreover, the excavation works are optimistically forecast to last around 40 weeks and generate some 80 truck journeys per.  In total, upwards of 15,000 trips by heavy vehicles will pass through the densely populated streets of Gzira.  MIDI themselves admit that “during construction works, air quality can be adversely affected by particulates generation to air” from various construction related activities.  The rubble and debris are to be transported through Gzira creating air pollution that will also affect surrounding towns. 

No assessment has been carried out on the impact that this project will have on the health of residents. Gzira is a town with particularly high levels of congestion and air-pollution, the group said.  Additional convoys of trucks passing through the town all day does not bode well for the health and quality of life of its residents.  

When presenting the signatures to the Speaker, Dr Farrugia stated: "I hope that the Parliamentary Petition Committee will, this summer, resolve its impasse and establish the long overdue procedure so that the necessary measures are taken to process all pending petition applications. It is a disgrace – and indeed unjust – that the good number of petitions presented by civil society has not been discussed and adjudicated in a timely manner by the Petition Committee." He appealed to the Speaker to intervene and see to it that the Petition Committee functions as has been established by Parliament.

 

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